The Rab­bi’s Cat 2

Joann Sfar
  • Review
By – January 30, 2012
Just as the sea­son for block­buster sequel movies rolls around, fans of the tal­ent­ed graph­ic nov­el­ist Joann Sfar have a rea­son to cheer. The loqua­cious Rabbi’s cat is back, along with the Rabbi’s strik­ing­ly beau­ti­ful daugh­ter, his son-in-law, cousin Mal­ka the sto­ry­teller and his tame lion, and a cast of new char­ac­ters, includ­ing a Mus­lim sheikh (anoth­er cousin), and a lost Russ­ian painter. While the Rab­bi is away on busi­ness his cat accom­pa­nies Mal­ka and the lion as they make their way around the vil­lages of North­ern Africa. They sleep under the stars, and the cat and lion engage in exis­ten­tial dis­cus­sions with a poi­so­nous snake. Mal­ka, who makes only a brief appear­ance in the first Rabbi’s Cat book, is a won­der­ful­ly com­plex char­ac­ter whose secrets are revealed through the eyes of the cat. Back in Algiers, the Rabbi’s daugh­ter and her new hus­band are hav­ing mar­i­tal dif­fi­cul­ties, and Alger­ian Jews in the 1930’s are fac­ing grow­ing anti-Semi­tism. A Russ­ian painter, en route to dis­cov­er the black Jews of Ethiopia, winds up strand­ed in the care of the Rab­bi. The Rab­bi assem­bles a com­pa­ny of trav­el­ers and they set out to help the Russ­ian find his inspi­ra­tion. A near-death expe­ri­ence enables the cat not only to regain his abil­i­ty to speak to humans, but the abil­i­ty to speak mul­ti­ple lan­guages. Along the way, the com­pan­ions expe­ri­ence vio­lence, death, cama­raderie, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, and love, all depict­ed in Sfar’s expres­sive and col­or­ful water­col­ors. A lit­tle dark­er than the first Rabbi’s Cat, but equal­ly as enthralling, this sec­ond show­ing will leave read­ers hop­ing for an encore.
Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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